Sugar denotes sweetness. Sugar is an ingredient which has been around for a long time. Any auspicious moment or happy incident is marked by eating sweet which is a taste usually contributed by sugar. Sugar occupies a very unique place in our culture. Any celebration is incomplete without sugar!
But have you thought about other uses of sugar?
Sugars are simple carbohydrates. We use sugar especially sucrose or table sugar for several purposes in our food preparation. Sugar is a simple carbohydrate which is used in a variety of recipes from simple tea to gourmet Tiramisu.
Sugar has many functions in preparing food and hence the many uses of sugar. Sugar is just not used to sweeten food but also to balance acidity (sambhar), to prevent spoilage (jams and jellies), for color enhancement and flavor (caramelization), for fermentation (bread making), etc. For instant energy, there is nothing like sugar!
Here are some uses of sugar in food preparation
- Sweetness is the main property of sugars because of which no kitchen is complete without it.
- They are readily soluble in water and can be used for making syrups. Can we make the yummy gulab jamun syrup without sugar? Based on what the recipe the syrup thickness can be varied.
- One of the major uses of sugar is to control the blood sugar level, as an instant fix. Sugars provide instant energy. If a diabetic person goes into hypoglycemic state sugar is the first thing given to that person to get him or her out of that critical condition.
- Sugars are readily fermented by micro-organisms. Any fermented food such as idli, dosa, curd, bread dough has to contain sugars so that the microorganisms use sugars as substrate and grow in numbers. Only when these products can be made. Hence, in most cases the uses of sugar are more than what meets the eye.
- Sugars can be used as a preservative to prevent the growth of microorganisms. When sugars are used in high concentrations like in jams and jellies they act as a preservative.
- Sugars can be used for caramelization. That is, they darken in color or caramelize on heating. The color it gives for products such as caramel custard, caramel pudding, and so many other baked products is very appealing. Caramelization gives a sweet and nutty flavor which is absolutely delicious.
- Some of the sugars combine with proteins to give a dark color known as a browning reaction. This is desirable in baked products.
- Sugars give body and mouthfeel to solutions in addition to sweetness.
- Sugar is added to balance acidity in many recipes such as sambhar, gravies, and sauces.
- Sugar is used for icing cakes. The beautiful decorations on the cakes cannot be made without icing sugar.
- And then there is sugar art or making sculptures out of sugar as an artistic centrepiece for grand feasts or celebrations. Not only are they extremely beautiful to look at but they are edible too. Sugar sculpture has been around for ages.
Though there are many uses of sugar in food preparation we have to keep in mind that it should not be consumed excessively as it leads to metabolic disorders. Also, be cautious about the amount of sugar you give your child because these habits develop in childhood. Sugar should be taken in moderation and if there is diabetes in the family then be even more careful.